The Orioles’ uphill climb toward a 2018 playoff spot just got a whole lot steeper.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Baltimore closer Zach Britton will be out for six months with a ruptured Achilles he suffered while working out.
BREAKING: Orioles closer Zach Britton ruptured his Achilles yesterday working out in California. Expected to be out at least six months.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 20, 2017
The most obvious effect of Britton’s injury is that it leaves the Orioles without their All-Star closer for the first half of the season, weakening the team’s already-scant postseason chances. But more than that, this news could drastically impact Baltimore’s entire personnel strategy moving forward.
For one thing, the Orioles will now be unable to trade Britton, after shopping him last summer. And if the closer doesn’t return until June, he won’t have much time to rebuild his value for a trade at the 2018 deadline.
Britton’s absence could also have implications for the top story of the Orioles’ offseason: the front office’s reported willingness (and reported unwillingness) to trade franchise player Manny Machado. Though Baltimore is unlikely to re-sign Machado when he becomes a free agent after next season, the team had some reason to hold out for one final postseason chase. Even with a middling roster and a division that includes the Yankees and Red Sox, maybe the Orioles could have dreamt on a wild-card berth in an everything-goes-right scenario.
Well, everything has officially not gone right. Britton’s injury deprives Baltimore of one of its best players and drops the Orioles even further below the playoff picture. Dan Duquette and company might be forced into the full-scale rebuild they seem hesitant to embrace. In other words, this ruptured Achilles might end an era that saw the Orioles reach three postseasons in five years from 2012-16.
Beyond the Orioles’ interests, this injury is a massive bummer for Britton. After posting one of the best relief-pitcher seasons of all-time in 2016, the righty battled various ailments in 2017 as his numbers, and his innings count, dove. He needed a strong 2018 to demonstrate his value ahead of his free agency next winter. Instead, he’ll spend the first half of the season in rehab.